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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

"Schussmeisters Stumbles, Still Stands"

Excessive amounts of snow falling in the region is not bad news for everyone. For the skiers and snowboarders, this has been one of the best winters in recent memory, but even a lot of good can generate some bad.

Each inch that fell also piled up more excitement for members of UB's resident ski club, Schussmeisters. This joy led to a big shock, however, when the roughly 1,800 members learned via e-mail that as of Feb. 5, the schedule would no longer include Holiday Valley, a favorite destination among many riders. The sudden change left some members confused and angry, and had many asking questions.

"I just wonder how it could have come to this," said Joseph Lee, a Schussmeisters member and research assistant in the computer science department at UB. "I wish they would have been more transparent with details on how it came down to this."

In a letter posted on the Schussmeisters website, club director Anna Oakes, a senior political science major, detailed some of the precautions taken to avoid dropping Holiday Valley. Among these cutbacks included reducing the number of board members by two, decreasing office expenditures, and nearly eliminating advertisement. This turned out not to be enough, and the club was faced with having to find money elsewhere.

Negotiations began with Holiday Valley and Kissing Bridge, another destination on the Schussmeisters' schedule, to work out a deal to help with costs.

"We were unable to come to a mutual agreement with Holiday Valley that benefitted both of us," Oakes said. "We had to go with the decision to get us through the season."

The negotiations with Kissing Bridge were much more fruitful. In addition to helping the club with costs, the ski resort also took the days that had been left vacant by the loss of Holiday Valley – Wednesday and Friday nights – and gave an option to allow members' friends access to lift tickets for $10 on those nights. The Schussmeisters board stated, though, that it was still on good terms with Holiday Valley and is making sure that Holiday Valley will be on next year's schedule.

"Holiday Valley Ski Resort has enjoyed a long relationship of over 30-plus years with the Schussmeisters Ski Club. We did not end the relationship and would like it to continue. Schussmeisters Ski Club reserves skiing and riding space at Holiday Valley on Wednesday and Friday nights and is offered special lift ticket pricing," said Kristen Sciara, the assistant director of marketing and group sales manager at Holiday Valley. "Sadly, the Schussmeisters Ski Club

Board decided they could no longer pay us for our tickets. They decided to cancel their nights for the rest of the season."

Confusion still lingers, however, on how the situation became so dire in the first place.

"One would think that they could have either seen this coming and raised membership prices or locked into contracts with the ski resorts," Lee said. "I feel sort of cheated."

The answer, according to Oakes, lies in the fact that this ski season has been so good. Each year, the club reviews its previous year's expenditures and decides on a budget for the upcoming year based on those figures. Last year turned out to be a record year for skiing – some of the best conditions in 50 years. The current year's budget was made to match those expectations, with some extra money added on top to be safe.

Although Schussmeisters members are required to pay a flat rate for the services provided, the club itself is required to pay for each time a person skis. The conditions on the slopes led to even more skiing than last year, skyrocketing costs beyond even the previous year's record numbers.

"The skiing has been more expensive than it has ever been," said Krista Weiderpass, club business manager and a senior business administration major.

These issues have only been compounded by a decline in membership during recent years. Normally fluctuating between around 1,500-3,000 members, the current 1,800 members is on the lower end for the club, one of the largest ski clubs in the nation.

Holiday Valley is, however, offering a special rate to Schussmeisters members for the remainder of the season.

"We are concerned about the Schussmeisters Ski Club member who is stuck in the middle. We want Schussmeisters members to ski and ride at Holiday Valley. We have open space that was reserved for them on Wednesday and Friday nights and welcome them to join us," Sciara said. "We are offering them a special rate directly to the skier of over 50 percent off."

Members can go to Holiday Valley on Wednesday and Friday nights and pay $15 for a ticket, whereas the regular price on a Wednesday is $30 and $33 on Friday. Schussmeisters members can come to any ticket window with the Schussmeisters ID and pay the reduced rate.

In spite of these hardships, Schussmeisters remains on campus and running. Oakes and her colleagues admit that they will need to restructure the club to prevent these issues from occurring again, and they are welcoming feedback from its members on how to do so. They insist that they remain resolute in their dedication to keeping to their promise of affordable skiing at UB.

"This tough decision was necessary to be made," Weiderpass said. "Cutting back one mountain was better than all of them."




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